South Korea has slammed the Japanese government's proposal to register industrial facilities as a Unesco World Heritage Site because of their association with Korean slave labourers during the second world war, South Korean media reported this week.
Tokyo plans to recommend 28 places to be collectively designated as a World Heritage Site in 2015, said Chosun newspaper, South Korea’s biggest daily.
Among the sites to be recommended to the UN agency are a shipyard in Nagasaki, a defunct coal mine in Hashima, a steel mill in Fukuoka and other facilities that are still in use.
During the war, approximately 4,700 Koreans were forced to work at the Nagasaki shipyard to build warships and some 800 others worked at the Hashima mine, according to the South Korean media reports.
The sites, mostly located in Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, are worthy of inclusion on the Unesco list because they played a pivotal role in the country’s industrialisation during the Meiji era from 1868 to 1912, the Japanese newspaper Asahi explained.
Tokyo will reportedly submit its formal recommendation for the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” to Unesco on February 1, 2015.
South Korea, however, condemned Japan for picking sites that carry painful memories for wartime Korean slave labourers, some of whom are still alive today.
Japanese media also came under fire for omitting references to wartime slave labour at the sites.
"Japan shows no sign of relenting in a campaign to whitewash its wartime atrocities by direct and indirect means," wrote the Seoul-based Chosun.
South Korea’s foreign ministry recently summoned a high-level Japanese diplomat in Seoul to express that “listing facilities that are laden with the pain of a neighbouring country violates the principles and spirit of being a world heritage site”, Korean diplomatic sources told the Yonhap News Agency.
Japan’s use of Chinese slave labour has also been a thorny issue between Beijing and Tokyo. From 1943 to 1945, around 40,000 Chinese were forced to work in Japan to fuel the country's war effort, according to Chinese media.
In Beijing today, the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression revealed more than 400 documents, which it said details how Japan used tens of thousands of Chinese slave workers during the war.